Helping Yemeni Children and Youth Access Better Education
Universal and equitable access to quality education is a human right and is key towards sustainable development. Proper education facilities lay the foundation for the desired quality education and pave the way toward sustainable development.
Less than a year ago, the Idrees Hanbala Primary School in the Mansoura district in Aden was in a state of disarray. The aging buildings had not been serviced and kept up, and had outdated school furniture used by the students and teachers.
But now Ikhlas — the principal of Idress Hanbala School — and over 1,370 girl and boys and their 82 teachers are enjoying a newly-renovated building in a healthier, more encouraging location.
Let’s explore how this happened.
The Will to Win!
“Since its 1991 construction, the school buildings were rehabilitated only a couple of times and this was long before the conflict in Yemen,” says Ikhlas. She added: “The conflict made our dreams to rehabilitate the school extremely difficult.”
Over the last 20 plus years, Ikhlas held many positions within the same school. Within the last six years, Ikhlas landed a well-deserved promotion to the most important position in the school — the school principal.
As a wife and a mother of four, she realizes the importance of helping build a strong new generation by providing proper education. “These children are our hope and future as a people. Despite the hard economic conditions for all the teachers — even those on temporary appointments and volunteers — we struggle to keep the education’s wheel rolling.”
Despite difficulties to change the situation, Ikhlas believed that there must be a light at the end of the tunnel. She started to use her personal and professional networks to seek support from the government, national, and international non-governmental organizations.
“Being the head of school made me more responsible to provide better education for the students,” she points out.
Ikhlas began writing letters to the local authorities and the Ministry of Education. She was able to have some minor rehabilitation works and essential equipment such as desks and chairs to continue the education. However, these were only very basic interventions and did not address the essence of need for a holistic change in the school’s environment and structure.
“The heavy rain during the 2020 rainy season destroyed hundreds of the students’ personal files in the school’s archive because the water was leaking from the roof,” says Ikhlas. She continues, “In general, the school was in a very bad condition with the walls and roofs cracked, doors and windows broken, and outdated furniture.”
With funding to the Strengthening Institutional and Economic Resilience in Yemen (SIERY) from the European Union (EU), the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) project identified the Idrees Hanbala School and 35 other schools as community priority projects and rehabilitating them through the Public Works Project. Identified by districts officials in collaboration with the communities, these projects were funded by SIERY’s Local Resilience and Recovery Fund.
For the Idrees Hanbala School, the interventions included fixing the roof, walls, doors, windows, sanitation facilities, painting the school, providing new whiteboards, and electrical connections among others.
“Instead of two toilets, now we have five for the students and three for the teachers and no more rainwater is leaking from the roofs.”
In an upcoming intervention targeting the school, UNDP will provide essential equipment including desks, chairs, cabinets, and shelves for student files and the library.
Wearing Its Beautiful Dress
“The Idrees Hanbala School has been able to put on its beautiful dress again after a period of long suffering,” says Sheikh Mahfouz, a member of the Parents’ Committee in the school.
“There were not enough toilets and hence the first-grade students were sharing the same toilet with those in the ninth-grade. The situation is completely different now. We are truly blessed!”
Omar, the school’s Social Supervisor, commented saying that both the students and teachers are now happy when they see the school clean and organized. “The EU and UNDP have salvaged the remains of this school!”
On the other hand, Nageeb, the head of the Parents’ Committee in the school, said that despite the general challenges Yemen has, “We managed to have better school buildings for better educational outputs.”
Dedication Brings About Victory
“When I was first appointed as the school principal, I made a promise to do all my best to change the bad situation and stereotypes people had about this school, despite the fact that we have judges, doctors, and important social figures who studied at this very school,” Ikhlas says.
“Thanks to the EU and UNDP, I can say that with this intervention I managed to reach 80 per cent of achieving what I first planned. I had the belief and will, and the dream has nearly completely come true.”
About the project:
Funded by the European Union (EU) UNDP’s Strengthening Institutional and Economic Resilience in Yemen (SIERY) project has been designed to buttress the resilience of local governance systems in Yemen to reinforce the resilience and recovery of conflict-affected communities. The project is based on the assessment that in a context of protracted conflict and massive population movements across the country (disproportionately affecting women, children and youth), that the resilience of local populations cannot depend solely upon self-help or on foreign aid. It is also necessary that local authorities are able to more effectively fulfil their mission in terms of: (a) core functions, (b) basic service delivery, © emerging needs such as conflict resolution, humanitarian aid, disaster management, internally displaced people and (d) economic recovery.